Torogan | The Maranao Royal Houses of Lanao
A long time ago, the torogan was one of the sultanate of Lanao’s symbol of power. It was the core of Maranao traditional statecraft, customs, art & culture. It is an engineering wisdom too. But soon, it might all be gone. Forever.
The torogan was the traditional house of Maranao royalties. The sultan, along with his wives, children & servants lived on it. However, it was more than just a residence, it was also a communal house where affairs of the community were held.
Certainly, no sultanate was ever complete without a torogan. In fact, at the peak of their supremacy, all of the communities ruled by sultanates & principalities had at least one.
The Torogan: The House of Power
There are three types of traditional Maranao dwellings. First, the torogan, the homes reserved for nobilities. Second is the “mala-a-walay” or the big house. Finally, the “lawig” or the small house.
Parts of a Torogan
Torogans were elevated from the ground using “tukod” or hard tree trunks of huge girths. At the center is the “tapuwilih” post surrounded by twenty-five others at the base.
Each of it stands on a careful assemblage of huge stones half-buried on the ground. They also act as shock absorbers making the house sway in times of earthquake or strong winds.
“Dorung” is the multi-purpose ground space created under the wooden beams. The main house on the second floor is called the “poro”. It is an open space partitioned only with cloths & chests.
“Barimbingan” planks make up the “lantay” (flooring) held together by wooden floor joists called “dolog”. The wooden staircase or “towak” as well as its stringer board screams of the folk motif okir carvings.
The walls made of “gisuk” & wall studs called “tartek” hold the walling planks or the “dingending”. The carved center beam inside the house called the “tinai-a-walay” supports the king post of the roof.
More okir carvings fill the door (paitaw) & sliding windows (rowasan). There are no ceilings too. Instead, they used appliqued cloths.
Traditional Maranao houses from ancient times used cogon for roofing or “atup” supported by the “rampatan” beams & adorned by a “diongal” on top. However, during the American times, GI sheets replaced the cogon.
Uniquely, the panolong is the most distinct part of the torogan. These are carved end-beams. The serpent design (niyaga) fill the front while the sides use the pako okir or the fern patterns.
Perched atop the roof or sometimes tucked at the back is the princess chamber called “lamin”. In the absence of a lamin, a “gibon” or a makeshift room of adorned fabrics inside the torogan replaces it.
Today, only a few lamin are left. Among them is that of the late Bae Minangoao Dimaporo in Binidayan.
The Search for the Royal Torogan
While torogans were pre-colonial architectures, some of it crossed through the eras of foreign conquests. And those that have lived through time are between 100 to nearly 300 years old today.
And in my continuing search for the real torogan in Lanao del Sur, so far I found three that keep its architectural characteristics.
First is the Dayawan Torogan in Marawi of the late Sultan Conding. Originally built around the 1740s, it stood witness to the various episodes of battles in Lanao.
The National Historical Commission of the Philippines lists it as a National Historical Landmark.
Next, is the Kawayan Torogan owned by Sultan sa Kawayan Makaantal. In 2008, the National Museum declared it as a National Cultural Treasure.
It still stands today at more than hundred years old in the quiet town of Marantao. In fact, it is the only habitable torogan left in Lanao del Sur.
Lastly, is Bantog-a-Unayan or Laguindab torogan in the lakeside town of Ganassi. Although it lies in ruins, you can easily spot the impeccable craftsmanship used in this massive house.
Some locals say that there are still more of these hidden somewhere. History has it that Bayang had Pandapatan torogan, Masiu had the Ampuan-a-Gaos as well as that of Datu Saruwang in Tugaya. Although, I have yet to check if these still exist.
The Sad State of the Torogan
Honestly, all of the torogans are in a decrepit condition. Feeble, crumbling & eaten by termites. They stand in abject neglect.
Dayawan Torogan was restored. But after all the ceremonies & press releases, what are left of it today are cobwebs of memories. In fact, it’s closed.
On the other hand, Kawayan torogan lies in a harrowing situation. The only thing holding it are nasty wires, rusty nails & feisty prayers.
If there is one royal house that sends chills to the bones, that is Laguindab. Its stately past is sadly unrecognizable. And what remains are slowly stomped back to earth by termites.
Why are Torogans Gone?
There are many reasons why torogans disappeared in time. Among them is the abolition of nobility titles given to any Filipino in the First Philippine Constitution in 1934.
Another reason is that many of it were converted into fortresses during the failed Spanish-Moro Wars & during the conquests of the Americans.
Then, there’s the rise of the middle class at the time when the sultanates became non-entities. They started to build big houses that rivaled the royal torogan.
Dwindling family fortunes also played a big part. Not to mention that Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar allegedly bought 2 torogans from Lanao.
The Torogan & the Mala-a-Walay
At a first glance, the mala-a-walay or the big house resembles the torogan. It’s stilted from the ground, wood planked walls & arched gabled roof. Okir carving may be found on the door, baseboards & window jambs too.
However, these type of houses do not have the panolong as these were meant only for the royal torogan. Owners of these homes are noble families too but were not of the highest-ranking royal titles. Some of them can still be found in Ditsaan-Ramain.
Notably, Sundig-a-Ranao of the Sacar-Barazar clan stand prominent here. They line up from the junction in Pagalongan & has most of the qualities of the royal torogan sans the panolong. Interestingly, it keeps an age-old canon called “layla”.
Then, there’s the Lumba of the Sampoerna Family & the Bantog-a-Bayabao by the Toroganan Family. The youngest, rebuilt in the 1957 is Kampong-a-Ranao of Mai Saripada. On the other side of the street is the Mompong of Hadji Madid.
I have yet to dig further if these were really royal torogans of the olden times, just missing the key pieces like the panolong. Or indeed, just mala-a-walay.
The Modern Torogan
In the town of Bubung, the 1975 house of Haadji Ali Munder is reviving the looks of the torogan. Although, everything is already built in concrete including the panolong & the diongal. Being the town’s political scion, their home functions like the royal torogan handling affairs of the community.
The torogan was a symbol of Maranao society, culture & traditions. Even the mala-a-walay homed by the affluent & the nobles were communal places that served its people. Nevertheless, in the passing of time, its importance were also lost to neglect.
Truly, restoring & conserving them entails a lot of resources. But these are the only way forward for these precious heritage. For now, we are imagining better futures for these treasures, the cultural expressions of Lanao and the Philippines.